A Manifesto for Fair Play in the Digital Age
Why change is needed
Featured Artists, those credited on recordings and who are the primary named performers, are responsible for the majority of income in the music industry. Their interests need to be properly represented.
Digital technology has transformed how we buy and listen to music. In doing so it has radically altered the economic relationship between artists and their audience, and the business world that operates between the two.
Navigating this new commercial reality is complicated. Issues range from the little known, little understood ‘making available right’, and the lost artist income arising from it, through to the wholesale distribution of large collections of copyrights by technology companies without fair compensation for artists.
The industry needs to change fundamentally to address these issues. Artists need an effective collective voice to represent them and have a real say in shaping the future of the industry.
A new approach
Historically, many artists signed away control of their rights for long periods of time in agreements devised before the digital age when the music industry operated in a different cultural and economic climate. In the digital era there needs to be a new set of agreements that reflect the new ways music is consumed by fans.
The Featured Artists Coalition will provide artists with a collective voice, guidance and advice on their rights and how best these should be exploited.
Artists are constantly exploring new ways of connecting with their fans. The laws and regulations governing intellectual property, and its administration, will evolve with the digital age. We want the interests of artists to be at the forefront of this transformation.
Our Key Demands
The Featured Artists Coalition will argue for the future contractual implementation of the following:
- An agreement by the music industry that artists should receive fair compensation whenever their business partners receive an economic return from the exploitation of the artists’ work. Record and technology companies are signing agreements to deliver music to fans in new ways. Artists are not involved in these negotiations and their interests are likely to be overlooked. Artists should receive fair compensation as part of these new deals.
- All transfers of copyright should be by license rather than by assignment. Artists lose the ownership of their copyrights because they are assigned in most agreements to record companies, publishers and others to exploit. In Germany artists can only license rather than assign these rights by law and thereby they retain ultimate ownership of their own material. This precedent should be followed elsewhere. Any such license should be limited to a maximum 35 years, as is the case for recording agreements in the United States.
- The ‘making available’ right should be monetized on behalf of featured artists and all other performers. Whilst enshrined in law, artists have been obliged to assign this right in recording and other agreements, and this assignment has been generally non-negotiable. In most cases the making available right has not been monetised and artists need to be fairly compensated for this new interactive right.
- Copyright owners to be obliged to follow a ‘use it or lose it’ approach to the copyrights they control. Despite new technology, many copyright owners fail to release recordings to the public. As a result many artists lose out and fans can only access such material illegally. A ‘use it or lose it’ contractual provision should automatically apply so that an artists’ work is always available for legal purchase by the public, digitally and physically.
- The rights for performers should be improved to bring them more into line with those granted to authors (songwriters, lyricists and composers).Author’s rights are much stronger because their rights model was developed 100 years before performers’ rights. Some key differences:
- if an artist’s recording is used in a TV advertisement in the UK, the author gets paid (via PRS) every time it is broadcast but the performers do not
- if an artist’s record is played on free-to-air radio in the US the author gets paid public performance income (via ASCAP or BMI) but the performers do not
- if an artist’s recording is used in a feature film, the author but not the performer gets paid public performance income every time the film is shown in a UK cinema.
- A change to copyright law which will end the commercial exploitation of unlicensed music purporting to be used in conjunction with ‘critical reviews’ and abusing legislative provisions for ‘fair dealing’. Several companies are producing DVDs in the UK which use artists’ audio visual footage and place a review at the end of the DVD. By doing this they claim that the DVD is a work of ‘critical review’ and therefore no permission or payment is required to any of the stakeholders.